Movie Review: Beware the black-eyed kids who demand “Let Us In”

A pretty bad horror comedy briefly takes a turn for the better when its biggest “name” makes his “star entrance.”

Let Us In” is advertised as a “Candyman/Slenderman” take on the “black-eyed kids” urban legend — pale, otherworldly children and teens who make dead-eyed/deadpan appearances before someone only to have them disappear or die.

Maybe it spun out of earlier horror movies like “Children of the Damned,” but now it’s totally a mythic “thing,” and a worldwide phenomenon.

But the movie is a tween-friendly goof on that legend. Kids are disappearing, a quartet of creepers dressed in black hoodies are to blame and our tween leads (Makenzie Moss and O’Neill Monahan) are playing with a radio transceiver, trying to contact aliens.

It’s the sort of film where “I think I just sharted” and “Emily, I’m quaking” and “I’ll even let you dress me up like a girl” and these “black-eyed kids” “smell really bad, like a mixture of really old cheese and butt” dominate the dialogue.

Even the black-eyed kids, whose go-to line for every victim is the perfectly-understated “Will you let us in?” break character and blurt out a deadpan “ouchie” if a victim dares to fight back.

So “Creepy, much?” No. Not at all.

But then our intrepid kid-investigators get a tip. They visit Mean Mr. Munch, the scariest old man in town. The well-turned-out recluse might have some expertise in the matter. And when they encounter him, he chills the giggly “You don’t have to be a little beyotch about it” right out of them.

“We appreciate you ‘letting us in.'”

The camera closes in tight on Tobin Bell, the original/accept-no-substitute “Jigsaw.”

“That supposed to be a joke?”

Filmmaker Craig Moss couldn’t afford Bell for long, and the movie he slaps up around this well-written and acted “explanation” scene is barely more than mediocre — attempted cuteness, everybody underreacting to a town-wide tragedy, figuring out how to “fight back” (lame and obvious), slinging slang and cracking wise.

The comedy isn’t funny enough to justify taking that tack and the would-be-scares are wholly undercut by the tone they settled on. Older viewers might be reminded of Chevy Chase’s Land Shark “Saturday Night Live” bits in the later “Let us in” demands of the black-eyed kids.

I kept expecting to hear “CANDYgram…”

But Bell classes up the joint enough to shame director and co-writer Craig Moss (the “Bad Ass” movies) into wishing he’d at least kept his black-eyed children as serious as Bell. “Deadpan” doesn’t work when your scary, monstrous villains let us in on their smirk.

MPA Rating: unrated, a little profanity

Cast: Makenzie Moss, Sadie Stanley, Siena Agudong, O’Neill Monahan, Conor Husting and Tobin Bell.

Credits: Directed by Craig Moss, script by Joe Callero and Craig Moss. A Samuel Goldwyn release.

Running time: 1:23

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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